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Ibuprofen Strip Search Violated Student's Rights
Court Issues | 2008/07/14 14:30
School officials violated the Fourth Amendment of a 13-year-old girl when they strip-searched her for two Advil tablets, a divided 9th Circuit ruled.

Judge Wardlaw, writing for the 6-5 majority, found that officials at Safford (Ariz.) Middle School were not protected by qualified immunity.

While searching for the source of a drug problem at the school, officials received a tip that a girl named Marissa had supplied students with Advil to take at lunchtime.

Marissa implicated another student named Savana Redding, an honor student who had never been in trouble before. Redding was summoned to the principal's office.

Although a search of Redding's backpack revealed no drugs, she was still taken to the bathroom by a school nurse and forced to strip to her underwear. She also had to expose her private parts to prove she had no drugs.

The only link to implicate Redding was the testimony of a student who was caught red-handed, Wardlaw noted. Even the anonymous tip about Marissa's drug possession did not mention Redding.

"Officials who strip-searched Savana acted contrary to all reason and common sense as they trampled over her legitimate and substantial interest in privacy and security of her person," Wardlaw wrote.

Judges Gould, Silverman, Hawkins, Bea and Kozinski dissented.


Anti-Smoking Drug Induces Violent Psychosis, Patient Claims
Law Firm News | 2008/07/11 14:14
Pfizer's smoking-cessation drug Chantix induced manic, violent psychosis requiring hospitalization, a man claims in Federal Court. He claims Pfizer failed to warn about the side effects, which have "caused serious injury and death."

Chantix is supposed to work by inhibiting nicotine receptors in the brain. Those receptors are controlled by dopamine, a neurotransmitter, the complaint states: "Essentially, Chantix regulates/restricts dopamine and blocks pleasure sensors to depress the normal flux of emotions experiences by humans in daily life."

Brian Kline claims Pfizer concealed and misrepresented the risks of Chantix (varenicline), knew that it was unsafe and had "caused serious injury and death," but failed to warn of it. He claims he took the drug, "which caused the plaintiff to sustain injuries and damages including but not limited to manic behavior, aggressive and violent behavior and diagnosis of psychotic disorder for which the plaintiff was hospitalized in August 2007.

Kline claims Pfizer intentionally excluded from its clinical trials people with histories of depression or psychological disorders. He claims that Chantix is derived from cytosine, and that Pfizer knew or should have known that cytosine was linked as early as 1972 to suicides and attempted suicides.

Kline demands punitive damages. He is represented by Scott Levensten


Federal court orders hearing on mental retardation claim
Law Firm News | 2008/07/10 14:24

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Wednesday ordered a federal court to hold an evidentiary hearing to consider whether a man sentenced to death for murder might be mentally retarded. After Michael Wayne Hall was convicted of the 1998 killing of a 19-year-old woman, he claimed at state habeas proceedings that he was mentally retarded. While Hall's state habeas claim was pending in Texas, the Supreme Court decided Atkins v. Virginia, holding that the execution of mentally retarded individuals is unconstitutional and outlining heightened standards for determining a defendant's developmental status. The Fifth Circuit held Wednesday that Hall is entitled to an evidentiary hearing to prove his contentions because:

[T]he facts before us are a core manifestation of a case where the state fails to provide a full and fair hearing and where such a hearing would bring out facts which, if proven true, support habeas relief...[T]he state court's erroneous factfinding and its refusal to accept more than paper submissions despite the development of a new constitutional standard and a lack of guidance from the state on that standard deprived Hall of a full and fair hearing at the state level...Given the material errors in credibility determinations and factfinding at the state level, we are persuaded that the determination of Hall's claim, caught in the immediate uncertainty following Atkins, was so freighted with a risk of error in factfinding that the failure of the district court below to conduct a meaningful hearing was an abuse of discretion in these unusual and unique circumstances.
Concurring in part and dissenting in part, Judge Patrick Higginbotham asserted that the district court should enter an order that unless the state provides Hall with a constitutionally adequate evidentiary hearing within 120 days, Hall will no longer be eligible to receive a death sentence

In August 2007, the European Union urged Texas officials to halt all executions in the state and to consider introducing a moratorium on death sentences. EU officials specifically praised the ruling in Atkins and asked the state to expand it to those with severe mental illness. Texas has since maintained its death-penalty policy, and other states have followed suit. In 29 states, the defendant carries the burden of proving mental retardation in death-penalty cases to receive a lesser sentence.



Court Shields Bloggers From Disclosing Names
Court Issues | 2008/07/09 14:22
A group of Internet users successfully fought a subpoena seeking their identities for comments written on a blog, but they are not entitled to attorney fees, a California appeals court ruled.

Mordecai Tendler asked Google for subpoenas to get the IP addresses of Web users who allegedly defamed him on jewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com.

When Google refused to comply with the subpoena orders, Tendler requested similar subpoenas for the Blogspot addresses of rabbinicintegrity, jewishsurvivors, and newhempsteadnews. The unnamed Doe defendants fought back with a motion to strike.

Justice Mihara reversed the lower court's award of $42,000 in attorney fees and costs after Tendler ultimately withdrew the subpoenas. Mihara ruled that a request for a subpoena does not fall within the anti-SLAPP statute.

"Even the broadest interpretation of the (statute) cannot stretch it to cover a subpoena," the judge ruled. "A request for a subpoena is not a complaint."

Mihara also noted that the third-party subpoena request was not even served on the Internet users and could "not possibly be expected to initiate a 'cause of action' against that adverse party."


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